Towards the end of our final year we conducted a focus group to ask fellow students about their use of academic resources. We asked about what devices they used, their opinions on e-books and what they wish they’d known before starting university. Students agreed that they primarily used Library Search to look for academic resources followed by Google Scholar and Google Books. The Google resources seemed to be used more by students looking for quantitative research papers, whereas humanity students felt they could not get all the resources they wanted from them. If students couldn’t find a book they wanted, they would download them online using torrent sites, converting them using Calibre to be used on tablets, kindles and laptops. This leads on to what devices students used to read books and articles. Tablets proved popular due to their mobility and ease of use. Phones were used for basic research (Google search and Wikipedia) but not really for reading and students would use laptops to read e-books instead. University computers were used when programmes were unavailable on their own laptop such as Endnote, a referencing programme.
When it came to citing resources, online programmes proved popular. Endnote and RefME came up several times as well as the university website for help on referencing. One student said she referred to UEA and Leeds University resources as they focused on her subject more specifically. Students who used Google docs said they imported references from other Google programmes such as Scholar and Books, speeding up the process.
We asked participants whether they preferred e-books or print books. Responses were mixed with positives and negatives of each. This didn’t surprise us as we’d had similar responses before. Negatives of e-books included only being able to print a single chapter, slow loading time and eye-strain. In contrast, physical books could not provide the find function (Ctrl + F), were often unavailable in the library and notes couldn’t be made directly onto the book (unlike e-books). The general consensus was that different resources were suitable in different situations and therefore it is not a choice between the two. You can read about our opinions on e-books here and also here.
When we asked what participants wish they’d known earlier, a knowledge of the university’s online resources was a common response. One student wished they had found Nexis and Box of Broadcasts earlier which provide an extensive collection of media papers, films and documentaries for free through the library website. Students agreed that an introductory workshop in year one to explore all online resources available, not just Library Search, would be really useful for them.
You can read about another similar focus group we ran here.